I’ve had mixed feelings in response to the whole Unite/Labour saga. I initially linked to it, when the story first broke, because what was being reported about Falkirk clearly seemed like something the Labour party needed to investigate and deal with as a matter of urgency.
Last year I wrote a piece arguing in favour of state funding for political parties. Some good counter-arguments were made in the comments, but the present system still didn’t strike me as ideal. Of course it’s not just Labour that can be seen as compromised by current arrangements.
Ed Miliband’s proposal that the political levy should be ‘opt in’ not ‘opt out’ doesn’t seem unreasonable, and Len McLuskey’s argument against isn’t fully convincing.
Switching to an “opt-in” for the political levy wouldn’t work – it would require Labour to unite with the Tories to change the law, would debilitate unions’ ability to speak for our members and would further undermine unions’ status as voluntary, and self-governing, organisations.
One assumes that members who would choose not to ‘opt in’ would do so because they are not Labour supporters. Many union members vote Conservative, and others will support parties further to the left than Labour. Those members have just as much right to expect their union to speak for them as Labour members.
I’m quite favourably disposed to the thrust of this Left Foot Forward post. But this position is completely compatible with being a trade unionist, and welcoming increased support for trade unions at a time when workers’ rights are being undermined, and employers are able to take unscrupulous advantage of anxieties about the economic climate. So I’ll end with a link to this useful reminder of some of the things the trade union movement has achieved, and with a picture taken today at the Tolpuddle Martyrs Museum.